Cambridge website for Synthetic Biology resources

www.synbio.org.uk

Compiled by Jim Haseloff at the University of Cambridge. SpannerPlantLogo140This site contains details of recent papers and activity in Synthetic Biology, with particular emphasis on: (i) development of standards in biology and DNA parts, (ii) microbial and (iii) plant systems, (iv) research and teaching in the field at the University of Cambridge, (v) hardware for scientific computing and instrumentation, (vi) tools for scientific productivity and collected miscellany.

Similar to the Cambridge-based Raspberry Pi and OpenLabTools initiatives, we promote the use of low cost and open source tools - in our case for use in biological engineering.

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www.synbio.org.uk

14-Million-Year-Old Organisms?

By Mark Brown, Wired UK

After 20 years of drilling, a team of Russian researchers is close to breaching the prehistoric Lake Vostok, which has been trapped deep beneath Antarctica for the last 14 million years.

Vostok is the largest in a sub-glacial web of more than 200 lakes that are hidden 4 km beneath the ice. Some of the lakes formed when the continent was much warmer and still connected to Australia.

The lakes are rich in oxygen (making them oligotrophic), with levels of the element some 50 times higher than what would be found in your typical freshwater lake. The high gas concentration is thought to be because of the enormous weight and pressure of the continental ice cap.

If life exists in Vostok, it will have to be an extremophile — a life form that has adapted to survive in extreme environments. The organism would have to withstand high pressure, constant cold, low nutrient input, high oxygen concentration and an absence of sunlight.

The conditions in Lake Vostok are thought to be similar to the conditions on Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s tiny moon Enceladus. In June, NASA probe Cassini found the best evidence yet for a massive saltwater reservoir beneath the icy surface of Enceladus. This all means that finding life in the inhospitable depths of Vostok would strengthen the case for life in the outer solar system.

Back on planet Earth, the team at Vostok are running short on time. Antarctica’s summer will soon end and the researchers need to leave their remote base while they still can. Temperatures will drop as low as -80C, grounding planes and trapping the team.

They missed their chance last year. “Time is short, however. It’s possible that the drillers won’t be able to reach the water before the end of the current Antarctic summer, and they’ll need to wait another year before the process can continue,” we wrote in January 2011. The drill halted in February.

Meanwhile, Russian engineers are planning to venture into the lake itself, with swimming robots. In the Antarctic summer of 2012 to 2013, they plan to send a robot into the lake to collect water samples and sediments from the bottom. An environmental assessment of the plan will be submitted at the Antarctic Treaty’s consultative meeting in May 2012.

Image: Wikipedia/NASA

Source: Wired.co.uk

Russian Drill Nears 14-Million-Year-Old Antarctic Lake

(Via Wired: Science.)

Research news at Cambridge University

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www.marchantia.org

Online resources, including bibliography, weblinks and posters, for work with the simple plant system, Marchantia polymorpha.

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OpenLabTools: open technology in Cambridge

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The OpenLabTools Project is a new initiative for the development of low cost and open access scientific tools at the University of Cambridge. With support from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, student projects include data acquisition, sensing, actuating, processing and 3D manufacturing, see the openlabtools.org website.

Research Studies

PhD Studentships in Cambridge

The Board of Graduate Studies manages admission of the University's graduate students. Prospective students should start here - for an introduction to the University of Cambridge, the courses we offer, how to apply for postgraduate study, how your application will be processed, and immigration and other important information.

Click here for more information about Cambridge